Illustration by Adriana Heldiz

Shavoine Bradford had already set up her son’s schedule and was helping plan activities for the next school year, when San Diego Unified abruptly announced it would be closing the virtual academy to 6-12 graders. That meant she would have to come up with a new plan for her sixth grader just three months before the next school year began. 

The district’s announcement bewildered Bradford. She enrolled her son at iHigh out of concern for an immunocompromised family member. And over the next two years, she and her son became attached to the school. She embraced the community the school had fostered – which included an active Associated Student Body, movie days and even opportunities for community service. Bradford said her son had thrived at iHigh. 

She said iHigh’s closure to 6-12 graders signals the district is out of touch with how educators and parents felt about the school. Stakeholders saw a school that spoke to the unique needs of families, and one they imagined would be around for a long time. She feels the district saw it as temporary. 

“When we said we’d grown, we really have. We had some dedicated people hoping to make our little school better and better every year so that kids who have special needs, English learners – whatever a family’s dynamics are – their needs could be met,” Bradford said. 

The abruptness of the closure, which occurred with no warning and no input from stakeholders, also makes Bradford feel cheated. Bradford said “We could have been more proactive and done whatever they needed us to do” if the district had sought stakeholder input.  

The school, which the district expanded and redesigned to include synchronous instruction when the pandemic hit, swelled to 1,700 students during the 2021 – 2022 school year. But this year enrollment shrunk to just under 650 students. Over half of iHigh’s current students are in grades 6-12. In an email, Maureen Magee, the district’s communications director, wrote that 562 students had enrolled in at iHigh for the next school year.  

‘You’ve Got to Fight for These Kids’  

Bradford is passionate about her child’s education because when she was a student she felt othered. Growing up as a Black child in Orange County, she struggled with anxiety and dealt with prejudice. She was one of only a handful of Black students in her graduating class. “I was the first black prom princess, and I probably was the last one,” she said with a wry laugh. 

“I was very disregarded in my learning style, because people saw the color of my skin first and they didn’t see me as a child first,” Bradford said. Those experiences inspired her to pursue a career in education herself. She now works as an education specialist who coordinates special services for students with physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities. 

“I want it to see children as children first, and recognize that all children can learn, but that their learning style is going to present differently. And why shouldn’t it?” Bradford said. “My experiences have put me in the mindset of ‘You’ve got to fight for these kids.” 

She said she’s skeptical of what will come next. “Students entering grades 6-12 will have the option to enroll in online, self-paced Edgenuity coursework at their neighborhood cluster school,” district officials wrote in an email to parents. 

But Bradford has worked with Edgenuity, and is convinced it isn’t right for her child, or for many of the other children iHigh served. 

“Edgenuity is a credit recovery process for the juniors and the seniors that I work with,” Bradford said. “It’s not for sixth, seventh, eighth-grade students. It’s just not appropriate, it’s not equitable.” She said the experience has made her feel disillusioned with the district, and she’s resigned herself to the reality that iHigh is probably a thing of the past.  

But the district has assured her that even though the priority choice window has long passed they will find a place for her son. She’s identified a program she likes but said she’s not going to assume it’s a done deal until she gets confirmation he’s been enrolled. 

Still, she said, “There’s nothing quite like iHigh.” 

Content Bouncing Around My Mind Palace 

  • The Washington Post investigated the rising trend of school book challenges – when individuals submit complaints about books used in class instruction or in a school’s library – and found that of the more than 1,000 filed in 153 school districts 2021 – 2022 school year , the majority were filed by just 11 people.   

What We’re Writing 

  • On Monday, KUSI aired a segment with a former member of the San Diego County Board of Education that made grave prognostications about the effect migrant children may have on local schools. Voice of San Diego managing editor Andrea Lopez- Villafaña writes that there is no indication that there will be an influx of immigrant children enrolling in San Diego schools. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.   
  • For the third time in nearly five years, teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy are set to decide whether they want a union. The recurring fight has split staff at the charter school and created a simmering tension between union supporters and opponents. But the issues animating opposition to and support for the union remain relatively unchanged. 
  • A letter sent out to parents in early May revealed that student medical records may have been taken during an October hack of the San Diego Unified School District. 
  • In February, we reported that a teacher who had been fired from the Grossmont Union High School District for inappropriately touching a student had gotten a job at the Sweetwater Union High School District. Less than a week after that piece was published, the teacher resigned amid multiple district investigations into his conduct. Still, the teacher’s credentials remain valid, meaning he’s free to go work somewhere else. 

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter. He can be reached by email at and followed...

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1 Comment

  1. I know how you feel, they cancelled a TV show I enjoyed because they’re prejudiced against princesses too.

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